Thursday, January 23, 2003

This is just what I’ve been telling my landlady.
Let me give you some advice. If stopped by a policeman in Israel, do not, I repeat, do not, try to offer him money in return for letting you off. Do not suggest working it out between you. Do not hand him your passport with some “green” notes accidentally folded inside. If you do this, there is a good chance of your being detained for questioning. Now this doesn’t mean that there are no policemen or women in the Israeli police who wouldn’t accept your money, if offered. There are. Quite a few, judging by the stories in the paper, when they are eventually caught and arrested. But you have no way of knowing if the policeman standing before you is one of them. Offering a bribe to a policeman on the street is not standard procedure and could turn out to be very unpleasant. Corruption in the Israeli police is not an organized group behavior of the sort we were exposed to in movies like “Serpico”. It’s individual.

So where is this police corruption prevalent? On the street level, I think it’s mostly in Vice. This is where the big money rolls and police raids do a lot of damage to the pockets of the owners of the illegal casinos. A tip off before a raid can be worth a lot.

How about leaks to the newspapers? Quite common, I think, but it seems to me that they are usually not perpetrated for money but for self-aggrandizement. The logic is that the more a young officer’s face and name appear in the paper, the more familiar he’ll be to the bigwigs when he comes up for promotion. It’s a style of advertising, even though it can be self-defeating. An early leak can ruin the case. This logic works just as well for the bigwigs too. If they want to get ahead, they have to have a “public presence” as it were. The best journalist for criminal affairs and THE person to leak to is Buki Na’eh, who writes in Yediot Aharonot. If you want to know what’s happening in the police, he’s the guy to read. I bet the criminals never miss his column.

I have long suspected that a lot of the leaks attributed to the police in bigger investigations are actually leaks from the State Prosecutor’s office. This is never sorted out, because there never seems to be a serious investigation to find the source.

When the Cyril Kern loan thing was leaked, one of the first things said was that someone from the State Prosecutor’s office hurried to say that the leak must be from police sources. This made no sense at all. From then on it was obvious to me that the leak must have been from someone in the State Prosecutor’s office.

All this makes me think of something nearer to home. Literally. When we moved into this apartment, a few years ago, I was delighted at having my own indoor parking place for the first time. My delight was slightly marred by the resident cats who decided my car bonnet was a good place for them to relieve themselves and also the occasional large drops of water that hit my head, Japanese torture style, on my way to and from the car. The water was seeping through from the garden, located directly above the underground car park. This winter, which has been rainier than usual, I have noticed that the drops have turned, in places, into a thin continuous flow, indicating that the cracks had widened. This was bound to happen. So I mentioned it to my landlady. I just rent, I’ll probably be long gone before the building collapses, but it needs seeing to and the longer they wait, the harder it will be to deal with.

The ease with which attorney Liora Glatt-Berkovich leaked a confidential Justice Ministry document and the ideological justification she finds in this act are pretty shocking. Exactly how common is this? Today’s Haaretz editorial amazed me by saying that there was absolutely no justification to instigate an investigation to reveal the source of the leak because it was not “a highly classified state secret, and the publication caused no harm to the national interest”. I could hardly believe what I was reading. What we’re talking about here is a severe breach of trust by a top civil servant and they say something that in effect means she had every right to leak it and the state shouldn’t discipline her for it. I accept that the police interrogation of the journalist she leaked it to seems unjustified, especially as the source had already been revealed by the time he was questioned. But what they are suggesting is that a breach of trust is fine because it’s only a criminal investigation. So it’s not in the national interest to effectively fight crime?

Turning a blind eye to leaks for years is exactly what brought us to this state of affairs. The drops have become a flow.

The Attorney General, Elyakim Rubinstein doesn’t seem to be doing his job very well. This is nothing new. There are many questions about his conduct over the years. Why no indictments in the Bar-on case, for instance? It was his first test and he failed it dismally. He just seems too weak and too susceptible to pressure to do his job properly. Why burrow out this particular source, but not others that came before? It sounds like Sharon gave him a call too, not just Mitzna (who apparently saw nothing wrong in ringing him up to personally demand his investigation of corruption be finished by Sunday).

I think the Haaretz editorial is not clean of foreign interests (why are you laughing?). It looks like they are making a statement to their other sources and potential sources, who are probably very worried right now. Haaretz is encouraging them that their deeds are not amoral but completely justified and in the public interest.

In Haaretz weekend magazine that comes out today, Arye Caspi announces that these are the last days of Israel’s democracy, because of the conduct of the right and that this is probably the last time we’ll be going to vote (I told you they were hysterical). I’d say encouraging state prosecutors to take the law into their own hands is also rather detrimental to Israel’s democracy.

Ari Shavit seems to understand the absurdity of what his newspaper is doing, when he points out the problematic conduct of the media, among others:

“The question is: Why does every child in Israel know about Cyril Kern's $1.5 million, whereas only a chosen few know about Yisrael Savyon's $2.5 million? The question is: Why does every child in Israel know about every stupid thing done by every Likud small fry, whereas only few know that the person closest to Mitzna received $2.5 million from the straw man of a Russian mogul who was about to take control of the Israeli telecommunications monopoly?”

I was sitting Shiva (mourning) for my mother when the Gad Zeevi/Bezeq thing was made public (which is what Ari Shavit is talking about) so I sort of missed the whole thing. I wasn’t aware that this was Haaretz’s scoop. It’s interesting that they haven’t followed it up as scrupulously as they have the Cyril Kern loan and they seem to have effectively played down the connection to Mitzna.

If Liora Glatt-Berkovich doesn’t go to prison, and I have a funny feeling she won’t, what is this telling us about our judicial system?

* Haggai says: “I think the drop-by-drop water torture method is credited to the Chinese, not to the Japanese, although they both might have used it in the past.”
* Bish says that considering no other leaks are ever investigated and even though she was breaking the law in what she did, it was wrong to ferret out Glatt-Berkovich just because this particular leak harmed the Prime Minister just before election time. He points out that no one is in the right here, everyone is acting on his or her interests and as he sees it, Glatt-Berkovich is actually the least guilty party. Today Bish was elected as chairman of an organization representing people in his chosen profession. I’ve told him I no longer respect his opinion since he’s now a politician.